Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The trade paperback of Before the Storm is now available with a nice pre-release discount. Check it out!

And here's a little excerpt from Chapter 1, where Alex - who's a mare, a woman kept for the pleasure of the nobility - is given away by her master to a man reputed to be worse than he is. Naturally (or so she thinks) he inspects the merchandise with some help from his pet sorcerer...

“Take your cloak off,” Robert Demeresna said. “Mayerd… help her with it.”

Alex unfastened the cloak and let it drop, wondering if the sorcerer would flip it through the air with magic. Instead, he was at her side as the velvet slipped off her shoulders, and he caught it before it hit the floor.

He moves too fast and too silently for a man of learning, was her last thought before the air struck her skin, chilling it. She let her mind go blank and her body doll-like, waiting for further instructions. The baron seemed to prefer it that way.

He cleared his throat. “Take it off.”

“Of course, my lord,” Alex said. The Iternan backed away, running his hands over her cloak, patting the velvet in a caressing way that would have disgusted her if she had been able to feel anything at that point. She unfastened the black sheer and let it puddle at her feet.

“Step out of it,” the baron said. “And your shoes.”

There was something strange about his terse orders, and the unfamiliarity penetrated even her gelid calm. She obeyed, watching as the Iternan dropped the cloak on the hearth and picked up her shoes. He examined them before he set them beside the cloak and gave his attention to the black sheer, shaking it out, turning it this way and that. He looks like he’s going to try it on for size, she thought and killed a spurt of half-hysterical laughter. She didn’t know which man would be worse when angered.

“It’s very skimpy,” Mayerd said finally.

“I beg my lord’s pardon.” What in the world did he expect the Black Mare to wear—armor? She looked at her bare feet, noticed the sheen of sweat that gleamed on her breasts, and wished she wasn’t standing so close to the fire.

The baron took a step closer and Alex glanced up, startled at his nearness. He was not very tall but he was large, and her skin crawled as she noticed the width of his shoulders. This was a man strong enough to hurt her with his bare hands, and she supposed he would start soon. She concentrated on floating, allowing years of training to take over while her mind drifted.

“I see you wear no jewels.”

“No, my lord.” Valuables or money of her own would have been far too liberating.

“You don’t need them.” The baron’s tone was quieter. “Take your hair down.”

She raised her arms slowly, letting her breasts move with them, and kept her gaze fixed on the baron's face as she did so. His body was tense, as if waiting to pounce, but his expression was not so much lustful as wary. She didn't understand that, but what did it matter at this point?

Want to read more? Click me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview and giveaway with Jackie Lee Miles

I like exploring the process of writing and seeing why writers make the choices they do for their work. That's especially fun when I've enjoyed a book - it's like getting a behind-the-scenes peek at how the book came about. So it was a pleasure to interview Jackie Lee Miles, the author of Roseflower Creek.

Question: The idea for this novel came from the actual murder of a ten-year-old child. How did the theme of forgiveness, which is very important in the story, come to you?

Jackie: The word “forgive” in the Greek translation means to give before it is done. If that’s the case, then to truly forgive means to be able to feel that whatever you are forgiving never happened. That’s a hard thing to do.

I wanted to portray forgiveness as close to that definition as possible. When Lori Jean discovers the real reason behind Ray’s problems, she is more than ready to forgive him. After she gets a glimpse of what his life was like for him as a child she says, “Being sorry wasn’t gonna change things. But knowing what Ray been through could change us. In those minutes that I saw Ray’s past, I forgive him for everything he ever done bad, right there on the spot.”

If only we could learn to do that in life. But it’s a tall order. That’s why I feel Roseflower Creek positively celebrates the power of forgiveness. Once we are able to forgive we can truly move on.

Question: Other than Lori Jean, who’s your favorite character in the story? (Lori Jean was mine!)

Jackie: Definitely, Carolee. The subject of friendship was a central part of the story as Lori Jean had so little in her life that was uplifting. I loved the part where Lori Jean says,

"Carolee sure was pretty and a whole lot a fun, too. Me and her used to meet up before school and walk the rest of the way together. She had herself a umbrella, too and when it rained she shared it with me ‘cause I didn’t have one. That way I only got rained on part of the way."

That's why I enjoyed her. It takes a optimistic heart to be happy about only being rained on a little.

"And when it rained real hard, Carolee left early and come all the way to my house to get me, just so I wouldn’t get so wet running up to meet her. That’s how special a friend she was ‘cause coming to get me was clear out of her way." Later when Carolee had an accident I cried as I wrote the lines.

Question: Before reading this book, I thought that a dead child might come off as too nice, or too good. Was that ever a concern for you when you were writing?

Jackie: I wasn’t concerned about her being too sweet or too nice. I was worried about maintaining her innocence while capturing a world adult readers could appreciate. Definitely, I wanted Lori Jean to be wise, but not so far beyond her years that it would not be credible.

I felt I found the right balance early on in the novel when her Aunt Lexie is making a maternity dress and once she’s finished with it she asks her husband, Lori Jean’s Uncle Melvin, what he thinks. He says, “Honey, that dress belongs on a kilt somewhere in Scotland. Where’d you get that crazy thing?”

Lexie started crying right off. She was doing a lot of that lately.

“Melvin, I made this dress, myself! Lori Jean and me, we been here for hours workin’ on it.”

“I’m sorry, sugar plum,” Melvin said. “Maybe I just didn’t see it in the right light.” Melvin guided Lexie by the shoulders over to the window.

“You just stand right there. Let me take a second look,” he said.

“Okay, what do you think?” Lexie asked. “Now, don’t be tellin’ me no lies, Melvin Pruitt.”

“Well, honey, in that case, I think we oughta go get you one them store bought maternity dresses. That darn thing looks like the dickens.”

“Oh, Melvin!” Lexie wailed and she run off crying with Melvin running after her.

“Now, honey...” he said. “You said you wanted me to tell you the truth.”

I didn’t much hear the rest. I decided it was as good a time as any to head back home. I coulda told Melvin a woman might ask for the truth, but mostly she don’t want a hear it.

Question: At the end of the book, when Lori Jean mentions all the people whom she hopes to see in heaven, Ray isn’t on the list. That’s quite understandable from her perspective, but what are your thoughts on it?

Jackie: I don’t think she really thought of Ray anymore. Once she forgave him he became part of her past and her future was in heaven with all of the people there who she had loved on earth. Come to think of it, maybe Ray wasn’t even there! Tee hee, but true.

I'm leaning towards him not being there, personally.

Question: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with readers?

Jackie: I’d love to share portions of my latest novel All That’s True, which will be released in 2011 from Sourcebooks Landmark. It follows two years in the life of thirteen-year-old Andrea St. James (Andi for short), who discovers her father is having an affair with her best friend’s sexy new stepmother, her mother is having one with alcohol, her brother is killed in a freak hazing accident, and her sister is ditched at the alter during Atlanta’s Wedding-of-the Year while reciting her actual wedding vows.

It has “equal joy and equal sorrow” and traces the protagonist’s poignant and sometimes laugh-out-loud journey to young adulthood, where Andi uncovers the elusive nature of truth and the devastating consequences of deception. Along the way she discovers the importance of one of life’s most important gifts—discernment—so one might recognize the differences. I’ve fallen in love with the protagonist; she has the most engaging voice:

“My grandmother, Nana Louise, lives at Sunny Meadows—only it’s not so sunny and there aren’t any meadows. My father put her there an hour after my grandfather died. We take her to dinner every Friday night. It’s like a sacrament. Nana Louise has no idea who we are, but she always smiles and gets in the car when they wheel her out, which I find amazing. I mean, when old folks forget people, do they forget not to go with strangers, too?”

© All Excerpts, Jackie Lee Miles, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The book has a lovely cover as well - check it out!

And Danielle at Sourcebooks is sponsoring a giveaway! Two copies of this book, to readers in the US or Canada. Leave a comment (with your email address) to let me know what interests you the most about Roseflower Creek, and you're entered. Contest closes midnight July 31, and best of luck.

Roseflower Creek

I thought Roseflower Creek would be like The Lovely Bones. Both are told from the point of view of a young girl who has been murdered, and this book begins with,

The morning I died it rained. Poured down so hard it washed the blood off my face.

But I was wrong – in some ways, this book is even better. The main character is ten-year-old Lori Jean, whose unemployed stepfather drinks and whose mother doesn’t stand up for her until it’s too late. It’s rural Georgia in the 1950s and her family is called poor white trash for a reason.

Although Lori Jean’s idea of a fun time is making mud pies at Roseflower Creek with her best friend Carolee, she’s not self-sacrificing. She works hard trying to win a new bike. And more importantly, what she lacks in possessions she more than makes up for in heart. After her mother marries her stepfather their lives begin to slide slowly downhill, but Lori Jean never gives up hoping, or seeing the good in everyone – not even after she dies, and things get even worse for her surviving family.

The book begins with her death, then backtracks to show the downward spiral that led to it – and how Lori Jean’s na├»ve but good-hearted attempt to help her family contributed to that. Although she can’t interact with anyone after she dies, her insights and hopes continue to the end. That was one of the best parts for me – her distinctive point of view, that of a ten-year-old girl, which provides humor even when things are the most bleak.

The folks at the jail was real nice to Mama. They give her this attorney man to help her. He was a public offender, I think they said.

It took me a few pages to get used to the Huck Finn-esque style, but after that I barely noticed. The book has tragedy – some that you expect and some that you don’t – but its ultimate theme is of forgiveness, and it’s inspirational without being preachy. I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Collaborations between writers

Would you ever collaborate with another writer on a book?

I started thinking about this when I spoke to MJ Goodnow, an online friend whose recently released SF novel Red Storm Regime was co-authored with writer Marie Pacha. Curious, I asked how they had divided up the work. MJ explained that he did the first draft and Marie took it from there, but he had a final say. She also developed his characters further and added a few new characters.

I asked whether they had ever disagreed. He laughed and replied that they had discussed differences of opinion and worked it out.

The reason I’d never considered a collaboration - and was wondering about disagreements - was because when I first become interested in publishing, I found this article by author Holly Lisle. She didn’t have a good experience with collaboration and she describes it in detail, though she also suggests ways to improve the experience and avoid pitfalls.

Collaborations are much more work than solo novels. They can be much more frustrating. They present special legal problems. They can cost you in a lot of hidden ways.

On the other hand, three successful collaborations came to mind right away. C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, Spider and Jeanne Robinson and Judith Michael – the pen name of husband-and-wife team Judith Barnard and Michael Fain. Still, that’s only three. If anyone knows of any others, please drop me a line in the comments section.

I thought a bit more about collaborating with another writer and realized that while it might work well for others, I would most likely never be able to do this. A couple of reasons why…

1. Sharing creative control

I’m a control freak (due to a demanding upbringing and a peripatetic past where it wasn’t even clear whether I could continue to live in the countries where I’d grown up). My work was the one aspect of my life where things always went the way I wanted them to go. So the idea of someone else being able to legally redraw the map of Eden or change the one biological weakness of Weaponbearers is a bit disturbing.

Critiques, revisions and editing are different. My friend Jordan suggested a change to the first draft of The Mark of Vurth that was, quite simply, a brilliant idea which ended up shaping the entire book. I also like having an agent’s or editor’s input, because the creative details rarely if ever get changed, and I’m flexible plot-wise.

Besides, when doing revisions or editing, writers are still in charge. An editor will point out when something doesn’t work, but won’t step in there to rewrite it. The characters and the world and the events are still mine. All mine! My precioussss…


2. Deadlines and expectations

I’ve been planning for months to write the sequel to Before the Storm, During the Fire, over the summer. So being the Type A personality that I am, I wrote 93K words over five weeks, ending up so exhausted that I slept for most of the weekend (and still feel kind of fuzzy). But I completed it. Made my self-imposed deadline.

But could I realistically expect that from another person? I was able to do little except drink tea and write for days on end because I didn’t have school, didn’t have work and didn’t have a family to take care of. When you work with another person, you have to keep their schedule in mind as well – and what if that other person has problems that delay their share of the work?

Not to mention that it’s best to have a contract between co-authors that defines who owns what, how the royalties are to be divided, etc. and that’s just too much hassle for me, especially if I can manage the book on my own.

So these are my own reasons for my choice. But I would love to hear from other writers on this topic. Would you ever collaborate with someone else, or have you already done so? What are your thoughts on it?

Image from:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

PublishAmerica and the never-ending special offers

Different fish take different kinds of bait. Plus, the fish which may be wary of the fly you use today may fail to recognize the worm you’ll use tomorrow. That’s the modus operandi of PublishAmerica, a deceptive vanity press and author mill which is endlessly creative when it comes to separating its authors from their money. It charges for:

* correcting mistakes
* fixing problems in cover art
* allowing authors to use their own cover art
* resending the PDF to the author if the author’s copy is ever lost
* galleys
* shipping - $3.99 per book
* keeping one's book free of inappropriate advertisements (e.g. erotic romance in a children's book)

Auctions for advertising space seem to be passe by now, though PublishAmerica is still selling $19.95 frames for the authors’ royalty checks (which tend to be pittances). Then in November of last year there came a new deal :

Dear Author:

PublishAmerica will put your book in your local bookstore!

As many copies as you determine! Imagine, Christmas shoppers flocking to bookstores, and the book they find displayed there is yours!

With the holiday sales season around the corner, we are ready to donate your book to your bookstore.

“Donation” means the author won’t get paid if the book sells. “Donation” also means that the book won’t be listed in the store’s inventory. Though it might mean that the company which is donating the books can claim it as a tax write-off.

We're not waiting for them to order it. They may put up your book for sale any way they want, highlighting you as a local author, stacking it on a front table, selling it next to the register, or any other way they choose.

The cleverness of this is that no actionable claims are made. If the books are never displayed, perhaps they never arrived or perhaps the staff at the local B&N didn’t know why they received this box of books and deposited them in the local dumpster. They’re not going to sell the books, because how do they record the sales? How to handle refunds or exchanges?

Oh, and about the front tables and the register? Publishers pay to have books featured there.

Now, here’s the catch. With PublishAmerica there’s always a catch, and it nearly always involves buying your own books, preferably in bulk.

Here's how we do it:

If you want to have books on hand, you may now order any number of books you need, and PublishAmerica will match the order. We will donate the exact same number of books to your local bookstore. In fact, we won't even charge the bookstore for the shipping!

Because if you did, the staff would either laugh uproariously or point out that they didn’t ask for the delivery. Maybe both.

But PublishAmerica was only getting started. A week later came a similar email offering to donate books to authors’ workplaces.

Maybe your office, your company, your organization wants to reward employees by giving them a copy of your book... Or perhaps HR or the boss simply love to highlight you as your job's very special resident author.

Special in every sense of the word, if you risk jeopardizing your job in this way.

Then the floodgates opened and deluged authors with emails offering to donate their books to Wal-Mart, Oprah, Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks, the military, as a Christmas present for soldiers abroad (this email was sent on December 8 and the deadline for mailing packages to APO/FPO 093 was December 4), Starbucks, the Today Show, Disney, Target, the bookstores at authors’ local airports (because airport personnel love receiving mysterious unsolicited packages), local hotels, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, the New York Times Book Review, Stephen King (“We will send it for his review, two copies, so that Mrs. Tabitha King, herself an author of nine books, can take a look as well.” Don’t forget to send a third copy for Joe Hill, their son!) and Random House.

Every writer dreams about becoming a published author. Once they have reached that goal, as you have, many dream of the next step up: to become a Random House author...

We will submit not one, but up to five copies of your book to Random House's acquisition editors, so that they can also pass the book around their imprints if they want. They may do anything they choose with the books.

Italics in the original.

As well as claiming they would donate money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti if authors bought books, PublishAmerica offered authors a chance to personalize their books.

Dedicated to someone special, for only $9.95, on the front cover! Remember, the holiday season is only weeks away! Offer expires this weekend.

Personalized books make unique and unforgettable gifts. You can dedicate them to your husband or wife, your children, parents, or friends, anyone you choose. Could be even your boss, your favorite bank teller, or Oprah!

If the cover is filled with text/images, wouldn't that get a bit cluttery? Then again, I suppose the rationale is that Oprah will be so delighted to see a book with her name on the cover that she won't care about the aesthetics.

Either way, though, these are books that most likely cannot and will not be sold, meaning that the authors will never recoup their investment. Also, they won't get royalties.

Once we print their name on your book's front cover, together with yours, you have their attention. They will show it to others, guaranteed. --> Link

So the book alone didn't catch the attention of family members and friends. They didn't bother showing it to others. However, printing their name on the cover changes everything!

Having PublishAmerica’s stamp on it, though, didn’t seem to result in a lot of sales, so authors were offered a way out of this.

Sometimes a book deserves a new start.

Not labeled in book vendor databases as POD.
A low list price.
A new publisher.


Independence Books.

Independence Books is our new subsidiary. It is treated as an independent publisher. Not registered as POD in vendor databases. Not registered as PublishAmerica.

Can you imagine Harlequin offering selling its authors the chance to not have the Harlequin name on the covers of their books?

Go to, find your softcover, add to cart, use this discount coupon: IndyBooks40. Minimum volume is 7 softcovers…

PublishAmerica's online bookstore will re-list the book as an Independence Books title generally within 24 business hours. Other vendors may do so at their discretion.

In other words,, B&, etc. will list the book if they feel like it.

And the latest try for cash was an offer to put authors’ pictures on the front covers of books. PA already puts authors’ pictures on the back covers.

We encourage you to do what the celebrity authors do. Let's change your book's cover and put YOU on it!

It will make the book look even better, whether it's fiction or nonfiction.

This is a ridiculous appeal to vanity. If the author's photograph automatically makes any book look better, why don't other publishers use those for the covers of their books rather than spending money on cover art?

And your readers will recognize at a glance that you're that book's author. A book with the author's picture on the front also makes for a very personal gift.

Imagine your book in a bookstore

That won’t actually happen unless you beg the manager to take it on consignment, but you can imagine it!

and you walk around, and suddenly people start whispering to each other, "There's the author.."

Oh, I can imagine people whispering to each other about this. I just can't imagine them whispering anything complimentary.

We'll make the change for totally free, if you do the following. Go to, find your softcover or hardcover, add to cart, use this deep discount coupon: MyPhoto50. Minimum order volume is only 5 copies.

Little wonder that PublishAmerica now sells writers the opportunity to get their rights returned.

Image from :

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CSN Stores bookcase review

Writers can never have too many bookcases.

After CSN Stores offered me the opportunity to review a product of theirs, I selected one of their bookcases – the Winsome Espresso Wide 2 Section Storage Shelf. It was just what I needed:

1. Compact, so there won’t be any problems carrying it out of the basement apartment where I currently live

2. Two shelves, but the uppermost surface doubles as a third

3. Attractive dark finish. I would have preferred a lighter color, but above all I wanted something that wouldn’t look obviously particleboard-y, and this doesn’t.

The case arrived quickly, but to my dismay, the assembly instructions said that it was a two-person job. I had to manage it on my own, and so I did. I don’t have any experience with putting furniture together, but anyone who’s familiar with doing so – and who has someone else to help hold the sections together – should be able to assemble the case in half an hour, probably less.

Any problems? Well, there was one screw which just wouldn’t stay in, no matter how much I worked at it, but it’s one of the screws holding the flat uppermost surface of the bookcase to the rest of it. So it wasn’t a vital structural part – the uppermost surface still rests on the left and right sides of the bookcase.

The bookcase holds several of my larger and heavier books without any problems (I’m not confident in my furniture-assembling abilities so I look at it every day, but it continues to stay upright and functional). And some day when I have a larger place, the bookcase will double as a shelving unit for… hmm… for other things I may own at that point.

So, all in all, a very nice piece. I took photographs of it pre- and post-assembly, but alas, I had to borrow my landlady’s camera to do so and must wait for the photos to be developed. But when they are I’ll put them up on my blog.

Thanks to Caitlin at CSN Stores for this opportunity!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What real publishers don't do

Returning Your Rights
Price : $99.00

No joke. Here's the link, from PublishAmerica's online bookstore. So along with ordering softcover books priced at twenty dollars and above, you can also order the plug pulled on your book for only $99.

Plus a possible shipping charge, since the email PublishAmerica sent to authors about this mentioned that,

You must choose a shipping option to activate your rights return instruction.

I'm not sure what they'll be shipping to you. Perhaps a frame for the letter making it clear your rights have reverted?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unpublished to published

If you google “Strategic Book Publishing”, the third result is my post on why Strategic is a scam.

Strategic also has a thread on the Absolute Write Water Cooler and a warning from SFWA, but for some reason my post comes in right after Strategic’s own sites. I’m happy whenever someone comments that they searched for information on this vanity press and found my blog, but a more recent question was,

So what can an unpublished author do to get published?

I replied in the comments section of that post, but that question is one other writers might have as well. And it might be a good idea to follow the What Not To Do with a more positive post.

There aren’t any secrets, though, and each successful writer has his or her own path to publication. If I had to condense my experience down to three steps, they would be:

Write well

Most manuscripts and query letters are rejected on the basis of errors in technique. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden put it in Slushkiller:

Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.

It’s not just a matter of being typo-free. I’m pretty good with spelling and grammar, but during the edits for my first novel I realized that there were far too many semi-colons in the manuscript, not to mention repetitions of “though” and “at least”. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those with subsequent manuscripts.

And then there has to be a gripping, saleable story. The best technique can’t disguise an idea that’s been done to death, or a manuscript with the pacing of a ground sloth.

Do the research

Investigate before sending your manuscript anywhere. Check what Preditors and Editors has to say, or do a search on Writer Beware. Ask writers currently with that agent or publisher about their experience – but try to pick writers who have been there for over a year. In the honeymoon phase, problems don’t always crop up and those which do might be overlooked in the happy glow of acceptance.

Look up any books put out by the publisher. Check their prices and cover art, read excerpts and see if they have professional reviews.

Get a subscription to Publisher’s Lunch. It’s a free e-newsletter which will keep you up-to-date on whatever’s happening in the industry and which provides plenty of leads when it comes to agents and deals. If someone ever claims that major publishers don’t buy manuscripts from unpublished writers, they haven’t seen this newsletter.

Follow the guidelines

This one’s straightforward. Whatever the guidelines are, follow them. My editor at Samhain Publishing knows I’m working on the sequel to my first novel, but when I send that manuscript to her it’ll still be accompanied by a synopsis, a blurb and everything else requested in the guidelines. It’s a way of showing your professionalism and acknowledging theirs.

And that’s pretty much it for getting published. No one you have to know, no degrees you need to get, no money you have to spend. It’s simultaneously the most rewarding and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Night: dark & stormy

In the Bulwer-Lytton contest – named after the originator of the “It was a dark and stormy night” line – writers compete to devise the worst opening line for a novel. These are usually fun to read, but many of them are so long that by the time I get to the end I’ve started to forget the beginning.

Here’s an example from It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Final Conflict.

While the luminescent moon swelled in the sky like the bloated belly of a tuna, Michael, sitting on the deck of his large yacht, stared at the rolling waves and remembered the last time he had seen Greta, her lacy pink dress besmirched with a blob of chocolate ice cream, her black patent leather shoes still shiny, as he made a tearful farewell and sold her for medical experiments to the university’s primate institute.
Kelly J. Messinger

The premise is funny, but the line is too… constructed. The idea behind it – that what we think is a little girl is actually an ape – should be able to stand without the deliberately awful simile at the start. That way the sentence could be read in a single breath, too.

Enter the Lyttle Lytton contest.

In this contest, which has run for ten years now, opening lines not only have to be short but the humor has to appear unintentional. Therefore, no puns or attempts to increase the atrocity of the writing with ghastly figures of speech. The apparent intention of the lines must be serious, but their end result has to be comedy.

The contest has proven popular enough to inspire a sub-category – worst last lines – and it’s just fun to read because the entries are so short and pithy.

Bob is sad. :(
Mozell Gibbons

Brevity is the soul of wit, as it turns out. And try imagining what kind of novel might follow; that’s when you scare yourself. From the same year:

Because they had not repented, the angel stabbed the unrepentant couple thirteen times, with its sword.
Graham Swanson

This is my favorite:

His eyes were brown, although you wouldn't know it just by looking.
Dan Shiovitz, quoting Paul Panks

And although this would be from a fanfic, it’s well worth quoting.

MacGyver had grown old.
Mathias Frank

As the host of the contest said, “I like the solemnity of that one. Angus MacGyver, lion in winter. Making radios out of denture adhesive and jars of Metamucil.”


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Only Fools and Horses

If I had to summarize this show in one sentence, it would be: A small-time wheeler-dealer tries to support a generally uncooperative family and vows that this time next year, they’ll be millionaires.

Only Fools and Horses was a phenomenally successful British comedy that ran for ten years on the brilliance of its characterization and writing. The main character is Derek (Del) Trotter, who sells cheap knockoffs out of a three-wheeled van, avoids the law and tries to impress everyone with his (imaginary) suavity.

For all his faults, Del is devoted to his family, where he has been in loco parentis ever since his mother died and his father walked out.

Del : I came home that evening and found that Dad had gone – taken all his things and gone. He took everything, Rodney. He took my savings and my three-quarter length suede coat. He even opened your little piggy bank… You know what day that was?

Rodney : (shakes his head)

Del: It was my sixteenth birthday. (pause) He even took my cake.

Rodney, Del’s much younger brother, is quite different. Growing up in the shadow of someone as determined, manipulative and unscrupulous as Del, Rodney turned out quite the opposite. He believes in education, despite not having had much of it, and tries to do the right thing. Though since he’s less shrewd and more easily influenced, he rarely succeeds.

Although money is always tight thanks to no regular employment and a variety of get-rich-quick schemes, Del and Rodney share a flat with first their granddad and then their equally ancient and useless Uncle Albert.

Del : Come on, Granddad, lend me a hundred and I’ll pay you back double. Now be fair. I’ve always been straight with you, haven’t I? Remember last month when you said you were feeling cold in bed? What did I do for you?

Granddad : You brought me an electric blanket.

Del : Right. Give me the hundred and I’ll put a plug on it for you.

The supporting cast is great as well. There’s Boycie, the only successful businessman among Del’s many friends – he owns a car dealership, is an inveterate snob and would happily bankrupt Del if he could. Unfortunately for him, he tries to do so in a no-limits game of poker (“A Losing Streak”) and ends up with four kings, while Del has four aces.

Boycie : Where’d you get those four bloody aces?

Del : Same place you got them kings. I knew you was cheating, Boycie.

Boycie : Oh yeah? How?

Del : Because that wasn’t the hand that I dealt you.

Trigger is another unforgettable character – a roadsweeper who occasionally sells Del a shipment of something that conveniently fell off the back of a truck, such as briefcases with combination locks and the combinations locked securely inside. He’s also extremely… dumb. At one point he and Del drive to the council waste depot after dark to dispose of some mildly toxic chemicals.

Del : It's closed!

Trigger : (checks watch) Well, it's a bit late, innit?

Del : What d'you mean "a bit late"? You said it was open twenty-four hours a day.

Trigger : Yeah, but not at night.

There are too many amusing episodes to choose from, but one of my favorites is “Cash and Curry”, where an Indian businessman hires Del to retrieve a statue of a Hindu god from another Indian businessman who has apparently stolen it. Del tries to make a profit out of that, only to find that he’s fallen in with bigger crooks than he is.

Unfortunately the writers tried to have both Del and Rodney eventually domesticated by partners and children, and the later episodes just aren’t as good. Especially after Del finds a watch that ends up being auctioned off for six million pounds, and he strolls off into the sunset saying, “This time next year, we’ll be billionaires.” Well, it’s hard to provide a lot of down-to-earth conflict for a millionaire, so he quickly loses it all. But the second through sixth seasons are British comedy at its best.